To combat climate change and improve health, we know what to do and how, now we must act. An international team of researchers who have just published a list of the causes, effects and solutions to the climate problem remind us of this A surgery At Limits in science. This is the main article of a Collection of interventions (also in simplified version for children and young people aged 8 to 15), which is also a call for quick action.

For a dollar more

Climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss are damaging our immune systems, say the researchers who signed the paper, with implications for the number of cases of immune-mediated diseases such as asthma and oncological diseases. Consequently, protection through the implementation of adaptation and mitigation measures could bring a significant return, including in financial terms: it is estimated that one dollar spent on mitigating climate change saves three dollars in health expenditure on treating these diseases.

In Italy there are 80,000 deaths every year due to air pollution

What are we talking about?

Immune-mediated diseases affect different areas of our body. There are many, but they are all characterized by abnormal activity of immune cells and range from asthma to digestive system diseases to tumors. In 2017 was appreciated that 14% of all lung cancer cases are caused by air pollution. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found that exposure to PM2.5 is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Finally, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified thisOutdoor air pollution as a group 1 carcinogen.

But let’s go back to the article above Limits in science.

How climate change affects our health

How do climate changes and their impacts on the planet – such as extreme weather events and biodiversity loss – contribute to the development or exacerbation of immune system diseases? In other words, how is our compromised climate causing an increase and worsening of conditions such as asthma, allergies and more? Scientists have identified and listed several answers:

  • Through an increase in the amount of pollen and its ability to stimulate the immune response, as well as a lengthening of the season due to increased temperatures and CO levels2.
  • With air pollution caused by fires (…), which are becoming more frequent and more intense due to climate change
  • With an increase in mold in the home caused by floods and extreme rainfall
  • Due to heat stress during heat waves
  • Due to reduced exposure to natural environments due to loss of biodiversity.

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“In addition,” say the authors, “pollutants, allergens and other environmental factors increase the risk of breakdown of the skin and mucosal barrier and microbial dysbiosis, while loss of biodiversity and reduced exposure to various microbes prevent the development of good tolerance (the ability) to develop protective antigensEd).

Access to food

Climate change can impact access to food, clean water and safe housing. Heat waves can have an indirect impact on health: through disruptions to electricity, water and transport. And directly: worsening other health problems such as cardiovascular disease and psychological well-being.

“The increase in pollutant emissions has significantly changed the environment,” he said Ioana Agache, Full Professor of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the University of Transylvania in Brasov, Romania and Co-President of the Allergy and Environment Guidelines of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EaacI). “From an evolutionary perspective, the immune system is constantly shaping itself to respond to environmental stimuli, adapting and keeping us healthy,” explained Agache, lead author of the paper we are talking about. “But recent changes have done it too quickly for our defense system to adapt sufficiently.”

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from the Salute editorial team

Natural disasters

Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of natural disasters, with significant secondary impacts on human health. As mercury rises, so does the risk of fires, which release particulate matter and other pollutants that can spread over hundreds of kilometers and last for a long time, also contributing to immune system dysregulation.

“As a physician and scientist, I have seen firsthand how air pollution from wildfires worsens respiratory health,” he said Kari Nadeau, head of the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health and professor of climate and population studies. “And I have also seen,” added Nadeau, co-author of the article, “the impact of the extension of the pollen season and the increase in the allergenicity of pollen on allergies and asthma,” that is, the ability that triggers an abnormal immune response and an allergic one Reaction.

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Inequalities: The threat is global, but someone pays more

Poor nutrition, lack of access to natural green spaces and unsafe, healthy and clean housing conditions increase the risk of developing immune-mediated diseases. This means that even within the same societies and populations, those who pay the highest price for pollution, changing climate and biodiversity loss are the most vulnerable people, the poorest or those with pre-existing diseases.

adaptation, mitigation

To mitigate the extent of the environmental threat to health, scientists believe two paths must be pursued in parallel: adaptation and mitigation. Mitigation strategies aim to stop or slow climate change and its associated risks and include: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality, increasing biodiversity. Adaptation strategies, on the other hand, aim to reduce vulnerability to the effects of climate change. These include: providing safe housing that reduces exposure to air pollution and mold, ensuring food safety, providing access to healthy foods to reduce inflammation and supporting the development of a healthy immune system and microbiome, and increasing access to nature and green spaces .

…and data!

But outlining effective strategies to inform appropriate policy decisions to reduce the impact of climate change on immune health and disease requires data, lots of data, and good data. Agache and his colleagues concentrate on three approaches:

  • Analyzing big data, artificial intelligence and other data science methods to clarify the complex relationship between the immune system and the risks of climate change
  • Biomarkers that allow us to monitor exposure to air pollution and other environmental risks
  • New economic models to quantify both the damage already caused by the climate crisis and the expected benefits of mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The planet and us

“It is clear that the health of the planet and the health of people are linked,” Nadeau said. “I hope,” he added, concluding, “that by sharing current evidence about how our actions affect the health of people and the planet, and some of the actions we can implement, we can adapt to these changes “To adapt and mitigate them, will be able to give something to individual citizens. “To give organizations at local, national and international levels the opportunity to work for a better future.”